Weehawken, New Jersey, part two: Joanne
Joanne, shy and quiet teen, who lived with her mother and stepfather, who went to school without evident benefit, teamed up one summer with a new resident, Werner, from an adjacent apartment. He was 18, two years older than Joanne, more worldly and capable, and she was happy to call him her boyfriend. She had few friends to introduce him to, and he wasn’t one for bringing people together so they passed their time in outings, always in his car.
She had little to say in Werner’s company. He read heavy books and had ideas, and such abstraction made her uncomfortable. She found it boring and meaningless. They subsisted on pleasantries and the diversion of sex.
He took the initiative but she took her turn in her careful grooming, and in her clothes and immaculateness, which Werner appreciated. And they took polite advantage of each other inside the car with their sexual explorations.
‘Parking’ was their thing. Parking meant driving to private or not so private places for sexual activity. It was a common practice in the USA, of necessity as sex was almost forbidden to anyone under 21 and unmarried. Cars parked adjacent to one other, sometimes a dozen or more and all attending to their own business, windows steaming up and never a sight of them. There was an ever-present threat of a visit by cops with large torches to disperse loving couples. They had once seen such an intervention and it made them wary. Sexual intercourse for the young was a risky business in those days, seemly and legalistic to the point of prurience. Blowjobs and handjobs were therefore the norm. They would spend their pleasant evenings driving around, getting into a street drag race somewhere, and cruising in hot spots, then conclude with a skilful handjob, which became their favourite act. This is when Joanne’s voice was liberated and she kept up a tactful commentary and provocative monologue during the procedure. Werner was maintained by this and most evenings topped himself up with the pleasure.
This entertainment was once extended to include Maisie, Joanne’s new friend from school. There she was, suddenly in the car and jolly as a beansprout. She freed up Joanne so fully that their seamless conversation nearly knocked Werner’s ears off. Joanne suggested a familiar destination to her driver and they found themselves in sexland, the three of them. Maisie got to work immediately on Werner while Joanne, silent again, watched. It was only heavy petting, in the scale of offences, but nice enough for the boy and apparently for both girls. Then Joanne pushed in and Maisie dropped out. Further familiar acts took place, Joanne silent, Maisie giggling intermittently.
Werner perceived a new dimension to his girlfriend. The episode would have done well on the internet.
The USA was a puritan land, then, decades ago. Sexual activity amongst the free was loaded with terrors. That is why oral sex was the national obsession although there were commentators (boys Werner knew) who claimed that blowjobs (vile phrase) were illegal in some states, though no one knew about New Jersey, where Weehawken is located, or New York City just across the Hudson River. Werner’s friend had a small outboard boat and they would power themselves across the river straight into the Manhattan docks, then slip downtown. They could have ferried Joanne there for legal reasons if they had been better informed. But laws about moving goods across State boundaries were applied too, such as carrying liquor from an 18 year-old limited State (New York) to New Jersey, 21. The trickiness of the law was an incentive to do nothing except attend chaperone parties. The young lived in quiet dread.
Joanne, fearful, taciturn, wanting only, Werner guessed, a boyfriend for status reasons, had mistakenly obtained one inclined mainly to conversation and partial to mainly
legal orgasms. It was not a promising relationship, despite the prospect of more elaborate parking episodes.
But they held together, never once argued, and a mildly satisfying relationship was sustained. Werner showed affection, Joanne gave affection, even a beautiful gift of a cigarette lighter with her name engraved on it, which he cherished. Werner studied her ways of being and dressing and avoided running into her mother because Joanne reported disapproval of himself, along with the stepfather he had never seen.
She looked better as time passed. She was growing into her bloom, and acquired an edge of sexual allure that was new and sharpening. A marker for this was laid down one evening when a not particularly close friend of his referred to Joanne, whom he knew at school, as a sexual bomb. So they discussed her.
The boy, Aris, Greek immigrant, Werner’s age, spoke lasciviously of Joanne to Werner’s discomfort, but he listened without objection. Even in his comments a fury of sexual excitation seemed to inhabit Aris. They were at Aris’s place of work, a few hours a week in a small ramshackle gas station. Very little gas was pumped whenever Werner was there, so they sat in the oily office in seclusion, and the squalor worked as a provocation to depraved thoughts. Aris grew animated about Joanne, so much so that Werner declared that he had been seeing her for several active weeks. Aris grimaced as if he didn’t like this tale. When Werner slipped into saying that she offered handjobs most evenings and was growing very skilled in her task he frankly refused to believe him.
Werner enjoyed observing Aris so indignant with disbelief, which functioned, he thought, as a frank admission of jealousy. Jealousy is a theme of this story. Werner felt its force growing in his friend.
‘How many times she done this to you?’ asked Aris.
‘Most days for the past six weeks.’
It was possessiveness. From a distance. Because he fancied her, dreamt of her and constructed fantasies about her, he thought she was his, and here was some upstart already enjoying her. Every night. And an assault on what he valued. He was incredulous that under his ravenous sight she had been doing more than he thought
possible. Jerking-off a friend, the friend here and alive with testimony, pulling him off with her own soft hands.
‘Where does she do this?’
‘In the car.’
‘How many times?’
‘Okay: 6 times six equals 36.’
Aris loathed this.
‘Do you cum? She make you cum?’
‘I cum all over her hands,’ said Werner in provocation.
There was a long pause while Aris weighed it up. A car pulled in so he broke his trance and stood up. In his black trousers there was the unmistakeable shape of his erect penis. A curve in it was evident, a rigid penis with a sideways curve.
Aris, complete with a touch of Greek swagger and a ready penis, walked out. He was a slender, well-made youth, stumbling through the language, and excitable.
Two evenings later Werner dropped in again on Aris, idle as usual. ‘No Joanne tonight,’ he said. ‘But we met last night.’
‘Did she do it?
‘What did it feel like?’
‘She has long fingers. Delicious.’
‘Did you cum?’
‘Do you cum thinking about her?’ asked Werner.
‘Don’t be stupid!’
After a long pause Werner bared his own line of thought. ‘Has anyone ever given you a handjob?’
Then Werner faced it: ‘I have wondered, once or twice, after a few drinks, how it would be to do it to someone. Just wondered.’
‘You a sissy boy?’ Aris laughed.
‘Just to try it,’ said Werner. ‘I’m having lessons from Joanne.’
Two things took Werner by surprise: the first, his own desire; then his improvisation.
He had crossed the line between two worlds. It was still possible to withdraw. Where he was heading was an experience that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He had an intuition that this might be so, as if to bring this act about, to do it, would mark his mind. He feared it too. But he gathered his cunning to make it possible.
Werner was encouraged, even led, by Aris’s responses. Aris was curious despite what he said. He was excitable. He was in the permissive company of the boy, his friend, who was unthinkably inward with a girl who strongly attracted him. Not only attracted him but had been revealed as a sexual creature beyond his knowledge.
Werner put it to him that he would jerk him off him as an experiment, try it, take the risk, just to see. ‘Better than doing it yourself.’
Aris listened. He said nothing. Looked at Werner, looked into him, considered him. He might even have considered, while he looked, the idea of being pleasured by this friend, this friend already himself touched, as deeply as a boy can be touched, 37 times.
Aris shrank from it on the grounds that he was taking exams. To have an orgasm would exhaust some of his faculties, he said. He admitted that he had not cum for over a fortnight in preparation, to steel his brain. Werner, surprised by this reasoning (and abstinence), tried to reassure him. ‘You might like it. A lot. You know, a lot. Let me feel you up now to test your reactions, just through your trousers. You will know from that if it works.’
Aris led Werner into the small lavatory in the back for this trial and they stood while Werner, from behind and lightly pressed against him, placed his hand on Aris’s already erect penis and through the smooth fabric ran his hand sensuously up and down its length . At the same time he lightly caressed his left buttock. Aris stood perfectly still while he received this attention. He was aroused and it was not only the erection that told Werner this. Werner was aroused too. Each boy was shaken by it.
Back in the office Aris said, ‘You’re queer. You liked feeling my ass. You fag.’
‘I have sex with my girlfriend every day, Aris.’
They made an arrangement for later, after closure. Werner would pick him up and they would find a place for their session. Our meeting, Werner called it, as if it formed a new start to their friendship. Aris was palpably excited, and grave and edgy. Two or three hours to brood on it. And Werner’s homosexual advance: it made him grave too on this hot summer night. He carried like an impression in his right hand the sensation of Aris’s penis that he had stroked. Aris was packed to the brim with tension and it would require all his will power not to relieve it himself before the time allotted. His pleasure waited for its moment.
They drove to a by-road running down towards the docks, scantily lit and desolate, speaking little. Each boy was thoughtful though each tried some small talk, but what they were about to do was not mentioned. Aris’s penis was paramount in both their minds so they needed no words and they knew the purpose, they knew the wish. They also knew the risks, the law leaning over them like a voyeur.
When the engine was switched off a large silence filled the car. They were beside each other and were about to test desire against action. Werner reached over to Aris’s thigh, felt the smooth trousers under his hand for the second time and then felt for his penis. It was prominent and rigid. Werner loved its stiffness. Such a pleasure was novel, its feel confirming the strength of desire, and his own desire mounted too for this thing that summed up his friend freely submissive to his caresses. Werner was happy to stay feeling the penis through the trousers, to marvel at it, to enjoy it at leisure, but Aris was more needy and started to undo his belt and unzip. And there he was suddenly in the dim light, exposed, his full penis wholly available in the humid night.
Werner felt it. It felt slimy, slippery, less hard under his fingers than it felt through the fabric, soft skinned and hard lined, it seemed to him. And a strong unpleasant odour came off it. His pleasure dimmed in a few moments. His senses recoiled. Aris reached up to Werner’s head and tried to push it closer to him but Werner resisted, was close to gagging at the smell and the idea of taking this slimy, revolting thing into his mouth. But he continued with his motions up and down Aris’s straining raw cock as it now seemed, and well within another minute his body arched and he came. Gobbets of semen shot onto Werner’s hand and sleeve and the seat, with a fresh odour all its own and especially repellent.
Aris was a new person afterwards, cheerful, carefree, as if a load had been shifted from his mind as well as his body. But neither boy spoke. Alone again, Werner shrank from the memory of what had taken place, which he thought must have scarred his face with a sign of depravity, and the touch, texture and smell of it troubled his mind with horror.
Werner had to make amends the next day. He considered that he had offended Joanne’s dignity and he made efforts the next evening to please her, a gift of chocolates, a visit to the fairground. She was as usual obliging when they drove home and found a fresh place to park to round off the evening.
Werner was especially happy with this: it would purge the memory of Aris. It lay heavily in him. It had been unfair to Joanne, such a flagrant act of betrayal, but their commitment to each other was light, without pledges, and what about the Maisie incident? He wanted to resume his connection through the customary method.
Silent Joanne: with exceptions, she was. He encouraged her, was gentle and supported her. He wished to bring her out of her introspection, though when he thought this way he recalled Maisie; Maisie was evidence of another identity for Joanne.
Joanne was seldom silent during the handjob routine. It was an oddity. She spoke during it, something unavailable during a blowjob. She spoke about what she was doing, what she might do next. She asked Werner questions, about his pleasure, his thoughts, his needs. She was good at it. Werner liked it, and listened carefully while her hands stroked and teased his pleasure from the depths. Listening to a handjob is a curious idea, but there it was in their sexland. More aural than oral sex, Werner thought but didn’t say.
Recently, while she was caressing and teasing him, she had mentioned her stepfather. He asked her for handjobs, she said. He liked them. Werner heard this and thought little of it as if it was a mere tale, passing chatter. His orgasmic pleasure erased it.
But this night, while she worked on him she let out a few details. Werner had not forgotten. For a moment it occurred to him that she had sensed his adventure with Aris and was taking revenge.
These details were not decisive as to whether she had done it or not for the stepfather. The fact was held in abeyance, beyond Werner’s grasp. But the stepfather was insistent. He kept on at her. There was pressure. This made all of a sudden a strong impression on Werner.
Afterwards when he had recovered his power of speech he said, ‘You must tell your mother.’
‘I have told her. She said I shouldn’t be so stupid.’
From this point there was a change. She talked more about her stepfather, but only when they were in the middle of things. Werner wanted to bring up the topic over the table but found it too difficult. The subject weighed on him. It was an embarrassment, like something humiliating to him. He did not like the words that he would have to allow into his sentences, about her and her authoritarian stepfather with his grotesque desires, which were, after all, identical to his own. The thought that the stepfather would like to persuade or force Joanne to provoke a luxurious orgasm in his repellent body and mind caused a complex of revulsion in Werner. He recalled his minutes hunched over Aris’s desperate penis in the near darkness. He was guiltily aware of his own pleasures under her hands night after night.
She began routinely to bring the stepfather into their daily act of masturbation, a few brief sentences, with heavy pauses between them, improvisatory or factual he could not distinguish. She must have sensed that these were welcome to Werner, in his silence. But Werner loathed them. He also feared them.
Nevertheless, decided though his mind was on the subject, his arousal leapt to a new level. He needed only a few words from Joanne on this topic. He was able to tell when she was about to break into it from a change in her tone of voice. A confident factual manner entered her delivery and she enunciated with more clarity. It was somewhat like a confidential announcement. He could tell when it was on the way, the stepfather’s desire, what she was meant to do, how he would enjoy her doing it as demanded. And Werner, against his will, or morality, or rational judgement, would during such moments cum like a beast in the middle of one of her careful, modulated sentences.
He arrived at a point where he wanted her to tell him, to tell him more, to tell him everything. The word everything carried an erotic charge. He craved it. Her words were a drug and excited him to a frenzy, though he never disclosed to her his consciousness of the process. He simply told her how wrong it was with her stepfather, and that she or he must do something to stop it. He hated it. Yet his sexuality fed off it. Her accounts made him into an obsessive who needed his pathological fix.
Jealousy is the cause. When the male is threatened by a rival male his production of semen increases as a consequence in order to retain his female. It is a primitive biological process. He was experiencing this deep primal defence.
Werner visited the social services and told Joanne’s story. The officer asked him if he had had sex with her; she said that would ruin any case in court. Werner had to explain that Joanne’s mother had told her that if any trouble came about she would tell the authorities that she had walked in on Joanne and him during their sexual intercourse. The story stalled here. It stalled on this lie.
It also stalled on Werner’s visceral response to the story as dangled, incomplete, and made up mainly of omissions in Joanne’s economical telling of it. All stories carry this risk because they tread on the border between fact and lie, true and untrue. And each one of us is a story-teller, however we do it.
Werner was 18 years old. His knowledge of the world and its ways was naturally limited and he faced its naked power. His concern for Joanne was robust but he feared that he could not force justice into her life. He suffered, emotionally and morally, and the experience laid a perverse taste in his sexual conduct that would last for the rest of his days.
Werner and Joanne drifted apart, quietly, without a crisis. Each of them found other diversions.
Months later, shortly before Werner was due to enrol for college in a distant State,
he ran into Aris, walking past, and Werner inside his parked car. Aris looked startlingly attractive to him, dressed well to show off his slender elegance, and well-washed. He climbed into the car without an invitation. He had a look of alertness about him. He was confident and business-like. It was a sunny afternoon on a silent tree-lined street in Weehawken.
What happened next could strain this story at its seams, but it is necessary to tell it because it is an essential part of its pattern.
Without any preamble Aris placed his hand on Werner’s thigh and then moved it into his groin. As if he’d been practising he found and moved his hand favourably over Werner’s penis to cause a strong reaction in it. These moves took no more than thirty seconds. Werner was silent, sexually excited and surprised, not least at himself. Seconds later Aris managed to get his hand inside Werner’s trousers to grasp his penis and gabbled about what he wanted, inarticulate utterances that came from something buried in him. Aris was more aroused than when he’d been fondled himself, and he was a very excitable young male. Werner, nervous about the street, urged him to stop but Aris didn’t care or was unable to, so fierce was his urge. Werner, in defence, said that they could meet later in private and get it done then, and Aris pulled back, his whole demeanour inflamed with lust. There had been no mention of Joanne. Though Aris was closer to her and her intimacy with Werner in these demented fondlings than at any other time. This thought flickered in Werner’s mind.
He made no attempt to meet Aris later. Over time he reconsidered this final encounter, its pathology and its details. His mind turned over the likelihood of Aris and Joanne getting together, and he indulged himself in it. Werner knew Joanne’s tastes and actions, and he knew something about Aris’s, and his imagining them taking their private pleasure in ways that he could reliably know ran his mind into disorderly bliss.